The best meal that never was

Delicious lunch in AustriaAs you can tell from the resumption of links, I'm back from my Austrian travels. And what a trip! I didn't really have any expectations for Austrian cuisine, but have returned a huge fan. Our first few days in Linz, we had dinner with a group of people and ended up at non-traditional restaurants. (Our first night was a vegetarian place. Only later, after eating pounds of meat in other parts of the country did I wonder how, and why, we'd ended up eating there!) So it wasn't until Salzburg that we began to search out Austrian cuisine. Lunch found us exploring the various würst stands each day, trying as many different kinds as possible. My favorite? The Munchner, or weisswürst. Oh what I'd do for one of those right now…

Fondue photo by Jason KottkeDinner found us slurping creamy soups (garlic, potato), meats and (more creamy) sauces, and the occasional wiener schnitzel. On our last night in Salzburg, we sat outside at a little place near our hotel. I'd heard it was mushroom season, and we'd spotted lots of them at the market, so when I saw chanterelle specials listed on the menu, I knew my choice: a salad to begin, and then the mushrooms in a cream sauce with dumplings. Jason ordered a similar dish with roasted pork. Alas, when my plate arrived, it was chanterelles on top of greens, some kind of mushroom salad. Apparently there'd been some confusion with the order (along with a such a delay that I didn't want to send the salad back) and I'd gotten the wrong mushroom special. It was good, the mushrooms were delicious, but when I tasted Jason's creamy dish, I realized how much better mine could have been if it were actually the right thing.

Mushrooms and dumplingsThe more we traveled, the more I kept looking on every menu for the creamy chanterelle dish. Every taste of dairy, every bite of spätzle or dumpling wrapped in that delicious cream, made me long for what surely would have been an excellent dish. But I never saw it in Innsbruck (though the photo to the right appeared in the Innsbruck tourist guide, which raised my hopes), and it didn't seem to be anywhere we went in Zurich either. And while the fondue was great, and the würsts memorable, and sauerkraut and smoked meats delicious, it's that damn mushroom dish that sticks in my memory. The culinary highlight of my trip is the best dish I never ate, and I can still imagine its taste on my tongue.

10 thoughts on “The best meal that never was

  1. The mushroom dish sort of sounds like a Pilzragout of some kind (pilz = mushrooms, ragout = sort of a quick stew). But there are many variations of Pilzragout, so it’s hard to say what was in the cream sauce..
    Around here (Zrich) one way cream sauce is made is with young white wine and a bit of lemon juice in it, plus shallots sauted in butter…this is the basis for a very traditional dish called Zrcher Geschnetzeltes (in German) or Zrigschntzlets (in Swiss-German). I posted a recipe for Zrigschntzlets some time ago.. it’s usually eaten with sptzli or rsti (crispy potato pancake). It works great without any meat in it and more mushrooms.
    I think you just missed the limited season for wild game wurst (Jagerwurst)…which is something I look forward to all year…until I moved here, I never knew there could be so many kinds of delicious sausages.

  2. White coloured sausages have always creeped me out a bit; for some reason I can’t get past the idea that it’s made entirely from fat.
    And re: your falliest sandwich: I love those too,try it with a thin spread of dijon mustard on the inside of the sandwich before grilling. Its delish!

  3. Maki, thanks for the info, this will help me recreate it for sure. And I didn’t see any Jagerwurst, so I think we must have missed it, which is too bad because I love all things game.
    Deanna, I’ll try the mustard next time. Thanks for the suggestion.

  4. Meg, a Weisswurst is a German sausage, not an Austrian sausage. Munich is in Germany. If you didn’t know that before visiting the Food From Bavaria website, you should have known afterwards as a map of the country in question (Germany) is shown. Bavaria is in Germany! Austria is a different country.
    I know it can be taken for granted that it is all “Europe” and therefore the same to some Americans, but for us Europeans, it is a very different place. 🙂

  5. I forgot to say, and just to be pedantic, Zurich is in Switzerland, again, another country……… maybe you should say your Austrian and Swiss travels where you sampled German, Austrian and Swiss cuisine! 🙂

  6. Well duh! But since I spent most of time in Austria (and only 1.5 days in Switzerland) and since I ate the Munchner in Salzburg (Austria!), it seemed clearer for purposes of writing this to just say “Austrian” cuisine and travels. The less pedantry on this site, the better, as far as I’m concerned.

  7. Next time you come to Austria, consider a detour through Vienna which is, IMO, a great culinary city. While most of what Vienna eats is not exactly regarded highly on the world foody stage, the cuisine is largely the remnant of being the former capital of a multi-ethnic empire and quite an interesting study in its own right.
    Hit me up if you decide to come; I’ll give you some pointers and a tour.
    But you did soooo right by the Austrian Wuerstelstaende — universally excellent regardless of the pedigree of the sausage type.
    Also, season is HUGE here.I If one is dealing with a “Wiener Kueche” restaurant, you will find numerous dishes featuring the ingredient of the (rather long) moment. They seem to be, roughly (and in order from now until next year):
    Mushroom (Eierschwammerl — Chanterelle)
    Sturm (“fresh” wine)
    Glueh Wein (mulled/spiced beverage)
    There are others, but I’m strapped for RAM right now.

  8. Now that you’re back, will you taste-test to compare the treats that you had in Austria with the wursts of, say, Schaller & Weber?

  9. Hmm. I am not so sure that the German’s would appreciate you calling their wurst Austrian. A very typical American attitude. One I am surprised to find in your blog, which, presumably, aims to educate people less fortunate than yourself who are perhaps not able to travel about Europe and may not be as familiar with where places actually are. It is true that there are great cultural similarities and commonly found food types in that part of Europe, but still, for the sake of accuracy you could make more of an effort to mention different countries. I notice that Jason took the trouble to mention that Zurich was in Switzerland, you could take a leaf out of his book.

  10. Laura, you’re kidding, right? The point of the post was about how I spent my trip dreaming about something I didn’t eat. It was not about whether Zurich is in Switzerland or Austria, and whether a sausage consumed in Austria needs to be declared a German sausage and accompanied by a map demonstrating its place of origin. I used the term “Austrian cuisine” not to define a national cuisine but as a simple shorthand for what I ate in Austria.

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